You guys would be great in a van
April 17, 2017 11:01 PM   Subscribe

#vanlife, The Bohemian Social Media Movement. Scroll through the images tagged #vanlife on Instagram and you’ll see plenty of photos that don’t have much to do with vehicles: starry skies, campfires, women in leggings doing yoga by the ocean. Like the best marketing terms, “vanlife” is both highly specific and expansive. It’s a one-word life-style signifier that has come to evoke a number of contemporary trends: a renewed interest in the American road trip, a culture of hippie-inflected outdoorsiness, and a life free from the tyranny of a nine-to-five office job.
posted by ejoey (71 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hate this based on reading the blurb and nothing else. Will this article make me hate the idea all the more, or will I come away with conflicted feelings about what it means?
posted by Going To Maine at 11:05 PM on April 17 [12 favorites]


I foresee myself using #vandownbytheriverlife instead.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 11:11 PM on April 17 [25 favorites]


This sounds like a tempting lifestyle. Especially if one eschews the social media angle and just does it.

Admittedly that requires more cash than earning it with social media sponsorships.
posted by egypturnash at 11:29 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


I hate this based on reading the blurb and nothing else. Will this article make me hate the idea all the more, or will I come away with conflicted feelings about what it means?

Hate is a strong word. It's kind of sad, and sounds like a lot of work. I'd much rather have a real job.

This sounds like a tempting lifestyle. Especially if one eschews the social media angle and just does it.

Well yeah, that's what they're selling. It does sound fun, but lots of things sound fun if you don't have to do the work involved and can somehow pay the bills. I wouldn't mind.
posted by bongo_x at 11:33 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


I'm afraid if I search #vanlife I'll end up with Van Halen.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:39 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


I feel like all roads eventually lead to bikinis within the instagram influencer economy.
posted by ejoey at 11:41 PM on April 17 [29 favorites]


The future of work:
“I don’t think of myself as an employee of GoWesty but more like an ambassador for their vibe,” Smith told me. He began to see that the time King was spending on social media might have a point after all.
posted by mbrock at 11:45 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


In its defence, the article does get into King describing how the lifestyle involves extra stress and anxiety, not less of it. It's not a tale of finding liberation on the road via expedient commoditization of vacation snapshots. It's more like they find a workable slog that they're enjoying for now.

Still, the logical end of the gig economy is the animated gif of Smith photographing King doing bikini-clad yoga on top of the van because that's what pays the bills. How they can unironically describe all this as something akin to a hippie lifestyle is a level of cognitive dissonance I can't fathom.
posted by fatbird at 11:51 PM on April 17 [38 favorites]


Man, I want this lifestyle!
posted by oceanjesse at 11:54 PM on April 17


Currently my work is storytelling and aligning with companies supporting our lifestyle and Earth.
I guess "aligning" joins "synergy" and "passion" on the linguistic ash-heap of history, of words so thoroughly abused they'd rather be forgotten then ever uttered again.
posted by fatbird at 11:55 PM on April 17 [10 favorites]


I'm afraid if I search #vanlife I'll end up with Van Halen.

Well, that or The Man.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:59 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Will this article make me hate the idea all the more, or will I come away with conflicted feelings about what it means?

The article, and especially the Instagram hashtag results, made me hate people, but on the plus side, the article led me to the Instagram account 'You did not sleep there', which is much more fun.
posted by lollusc at 12:09 AM on April 18 [14 favorites]


I liked the article, and don't think it is really exploring the idea of "vanlife" as a workable alternative for most people, nor do I think King and Smith come across as really believing the idea of their life as an unironic call back to the hippie lifestyle, as there are too many details within the article giving lie to that. My feeling is more that the article is written with an eye on those who follow the #vanlife tags and is relying on what the reader knows of every day life and what they read of life in the van to suggest where the desire for this kind of "escape" comes from and how it is mostly just fantasizing. the last paragraph of the article pretty much sums up the theme.


A middle-aged man in a shiny Volvo station wagon pulled into the parking lot behind us. He’d seen us on the freeway and followed us, he said. He wanted to talk about vans, and self-sufficiency, and freedom. Just a few days into vanlife, I had become accustomed to this kind of encounter: the hunger in the eyes of middle-aged men at the sight of old Volkswagens, and how not entirely bad it felt to be a symbol that other people projected their fantasies onto. Smith smiled politely as the man kept talking. “You’re survivors,” the man said emphatically, thumping his steering wheel. “You’re living in reality.”
posted by gusottertrout at 1:30 AM on April 18 [6 favorites]


Yeah, it really is quite far from being a puff piece, while also not being especially cruel to its subjects. #vanlife - everyone's got to make a living, eh?

That said, #vanlife may become more economically feasible when we get cheap, reliable remote internet connectivity. One of the reasons they went full-bore into being social media influencers is because King wasn't able to get good internet in remote places, which was also stressful for her, despite only working part-time (I can sympathise). If we get high speed satellite internet working in the next 5-10 years, that'll be one problem checked off the list...
posted by adrianhon at 1:34 AM on April 18


Yes, the article features a lot of little details that make it worth reading beyond the pulled quotes. Things like King mostly supporting them, directly or through bikiniing, while Smith gets to make all the decisions on where they go and how long they'll stay. Which is obviously telling in one sense, but as the couple seems to be okay with it, also not as damning perhaps as it appears. Not to mention the connection to the whole idea of "hippie living" also being something of a fantasy that infuses the vanlife ideal from the start.

I gotta say though that the article made me think of the Albert Brooks movie Lost in America in a lot of ways. Take that as you will.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:56 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


...and, because he chooses where and when the couple travels, he decided that it was time to move on.

Say what now? Is she being held captive or something? Even if the couple does agree to it, it still strikes me as deeply weird to say the least. This line was a needle scratching across the record moment for me.

I thought the article was very well written and made me realise I actually wouldn't enjoy this lifestyle in the slightest. They make it seem like a great way to take an enjoyable weekend hobby and suck pretty much all the joy out of it. Plus they brush their teeth with something called TruthPaste for money. Then there's the offer of sponsorship by a TV show that they turn down because they consider it too violent. The TV show trebles their offer and the couple are like, "well, on the other hand we can't just ignore violence."

All this for $18k for a year. Now granted this was just their first year and they may make more in future, but what's the fallback plan when no one is interested in more bikini shots or an even younger and better looking van couple come along to steal their thunder? I get the point about the high rates of unemployment among millennials but King at least left a good job to do the van thing. I'm sure I'm just a grumpy middle aged person who they'd shake their heads at pityingly but I just can't see how there's any future in this lifestyle. Plus the whole painstakingly posed photos passed off as spontaneous snaps seems so dishonest and misleading to me in a way that no amount of TruthPaste can scrub away.
posted by hazyjane at 2:27 AM on April 18 [16 favorites]


As soon as they accepted the first dollar, it stopped being what they want to do and started being what they had to do. I reject the entire premise. It's just another reality show.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:49 AM on April 18 [11 favorites]


“I remember coming home and telling my mom, ‘I have something to tell you,’ ” King said. “She thought I was going to say we were getting married or having a baby. But I said, ‘We’re going to live in a van.’ ”

Okay. It's good to know that conversation actually happened on Earth somewhere.
posted by saysthis at 2:57 AM on April 18 [14 favorites]


An '87 Syncro Westfalia isn't exactly a cheap investment to start off your #vanlife. A quick look at The Samba tells me that you're probably going to spend $30K - $40K just to get your wheels for your new life.
posted by octothorpe at 3:43 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Having lived in a car and off of a motorcycle for months at a time, this is like staring through the looking glass.

I've taken thousands of photos of my journeys, and for a while I wrote a travel blog. I sometimes wish I could turn my aimless wandering into something that pays for itself, but the ugly gristle of how that sausage gets made - all the brand endorsements and advertising - just produces visceral disgust. I'm not a fan of the self-censorship turning my life into a "lifestyle brand" either.

King attempted to placate him. “Corey, this is O.K., this is O.K., this is fun,” she said.

This sounds like hell.
posted by Feyala at 3:54 AM on April 18 [12 favorites]


I'd much rather have a real job.

Article has you covered!

“It’s men in their thirties with huge beards, and they’re pretty much all stay-at-home dads,” he said. “Their wives work office jobs and they work on the vans so the family can go out and vanlife on the weekend.”
posted by thelonius at 3:54 AM on April 18 [8 favorites]


"vanlife" is a verb.

I'm going to see something beautiful, like the cheeky sapsucker which was harassing my favorite maple tree this morning, and the pleasure of the moment will be tainted a bit as somewhere deep in my brain a tiny voice will say "yes, lovely, but what is beauty in a world where vanlife is a verb?"
posted by maxwelton at 4:25 AM on April 18 [10 favorites]


Has social media in general and social media trends in particular ever been anything other than self-parodying?
posted by signal at 4:40 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


At least people are making fun of the hashtag, as with the first result I get for it on Instagram (slightly NSFW). But otherwise, yeah, not much surprising about this sort of thing being commodified. “There are now professional vanlifers,” Huntington told me, sounding slightly scandalized. Said the guy whose Kickstarted book is in its fourth printing and is coming out with another one.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:57 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


the mobile life is also a response to and attempt to sidestep the rife rentseeking in housing, our economy's largest sector.

half this country doesn't have any wealth at all and most of the other half has borderline bankrupted themselves buying into the American dream.

Living in a van is an attempt to avoid the bought-up Monopoly board we call an economy, by breaking the rules and staying in the gaps between properties.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=dpkX

blue is annual wages index, 1966 = 100
red is housing index
green is cost of clothing as a reality check

we've made legal tenancy in land -- either leasehold, by the month, or free-and-clear (but for the monthly mortgage) a primary element of our economic existence.

Politically and economically stopping the ever-increasing rising cost of housing -- which is mostly inflation of land values actually -- is impossible. No politician can run for office promising to lower housing valuations.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=dpl3 shows the $2 trillion overshoot in housing still. But even so, buying is less of a treadmill than renting. At least future inflation has historically saved the buyer, while screwing the renter, good and hard.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 5:01 AM on April 18 [14 favorites]


An '87 Syncro Westfalia isn't exactly a cheap investment to start off your #vanlife. A quick look at The Samba tells me that you're probably going to spend $30K - $40K just to get your wheels for your new life.

The article says they paid about a tenth of that for their van, though it was in poor shape and has needed a lot of work. (I mean, who in their right mind buys an older vehicle in upstate New York?)

Well yeah, that's what they're selling. It does sound fun, but lots of things sound fun if you don't have to do the work involved and can somehow pay the bills. I wouldn't mind.

Exactly. I have no problem admitting that I have my occasional fantasies about selling everything and traveling around, possibly even in a van. (Though definitely not an old VW, I had enough of those when I was a kid.) But it's a fantasy that depends on a bunch of things lining up just right, like neither of you having a complicated or expensive health situation, not having family that you are supporting, and some kind of Plan B for supporting yourself later in life when the travel is done.

Based on the people I've personally known who do this, the key is having a really good family safety net -- it's what helps you do things like live in a van or get an impractical graduate degree and turn them into social capital rather than a liability. It's like that class difference between "taking a gap year" and "needing to work."

I found the article really interesting, and I liked seeing the two of them in a moment where they are very self-consciously figuring out how to make this personal branding thing work for them -- what photographs work, what don't, how to negotiate with potential sponsors, and so on.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:58 AM on April 18 [8 favorites]


'Cause like a princess she was laying there
Moonlight dancing off her hair
She woke up and took me by the hand
We made love my in my Chevy van
And that's all right with me
posted by fixedgear at 6:42 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I live in a national park and have been following van life for years. Most people just do it for week or two road trips a few times a year, while some will do an entire season or two as they explore a continent. The funny thing for me is I can recognize most landmarks and where the photo was taken on sight and a lot of these are done from super accessible parking lots that are supervised so they aren't actually camping there, just staging the photo, and there have been a few instances in our park where #vanlide photos have led to charges because it was obvious they got off the road in order to stage a photo and caused damage as a result. Anyone who has slept in a car in late September or further down the calendar knows that van life is not very glamorous, but at least you don't have to do much to set up/take down camp, I guess.
posted by furtive at 6:46 AM on April 18 [11 favorites]


I've met a handful of people who spent their springs and summers travelling around Europe in camper vans and converted transits. They were circus performers, wending a complicated path between paid gigs at various festivals and events across the continent, with occasional breaks along the way for a beach, a mountain, or a week scrubbing potatoes to top up the bank account when a gig got cancelled or something broke. At big events and festivals they'd converge with friends and fellow performers, most of the time they were off in their own or in couples. From chatting with them, the travel and sense of freedom was fantastic, the cramped, cold nights and occasional drudgery to make ends meet were less so.

So... #vanlife is a real thing for at least a handful of people, not just a performance for instagram or an indulgence. (Granted, I met them before Instagram launched, and lots of independent circus performers are trying to make money on instagram these days, so who knows?) But like any other life it has its share of drudgery, stress, and problems.

I think the article's note about the changing economic pressures is important, too: it's notable that the aspirational adventurous experience is shifting away from eyewateringly expensive tours of East Asia or South America, hopping around by plane every few weeks, towards buying and fixing a beaten-up vehicle and driving around whichever of the US or EU you're already living in.
posted by metaBugs at 6:53 AM on April 18 [8 favorites]


Within the last year, two couples I know, both late-30s to mid-40s, separately quit their middle class careers, sold everything, and are now traveling in vans. So while I don't think that this is any kind of actual mass harbinger of nomadic living, it's enough of a thing that companies like Winnebago are now marketing cheaper (compared to huge luxury RVs, anyway) vans aimed precisely at the kind of younger, adventure-oriented buyers who thirty yeas ago would have been buying a VW Westfalia.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:00 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I lived on a 30 foot sailboat for a year, just me and my giant cat named Life Jacket. It was awesome. The worst part was when we got fleas. So many fleas.

It was a great way to get million dollar views for a couple hundred in dock fees a month, and if you move with the seasons the weather isn't too bad. I have often considered trying it van style land style, so I can see how there is room to make a living selling that dream.

Except the fleas.
posted by BeeDo at 7:10 AM on April 18 [10 favorites]


related: The Vanual, a "build manual" and "lifestyle manual" that bills itself as "the complete guide to complete freedom", but is really just a howto of sorts on converting a box van for living out of.

snark aside, this lifestyle (without the social media angle) calls to me. I did it once for a month out of a hatchback, and would love to do it again.
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:24 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


A middle-aged man in a shiny Volvo station wagon pulled into the parking lot behind us. He’d seen us on the freeway and followed us, he said. He wanted to talk about vans, and self-sufficiency, and freedom.

there is literally nothing more self-sufficient than an internal combustion engine

#artisinalsmallbatchpetroleum
posted by entropicamericana at 7:30 AM on April 18 [11 favorites]


Here / In my van / I can lose / My small mind.
posted by stannate at 7:33 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


When I hear "van life" it reminds me of my mother's sweet 1970's shaggin' wagon with the captain's chairs and the carpeted interior and the bumper sticker that said ASS, GAS OR GRASS -- NOBODY RIDES FOR FREE.
posted by palomar at 7:33 AM on April 18 [6 favorites]


This was called "vandwelling" ten years ago when I was doing it. #yellatcloud
posted by The otter lady at 8:05 AM on April 18 [5 favorites]


Remember, one guy has to sleep in the van to make sure no one steals the gear.

And Fu Manchu has you covered for the soundtrack.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:13 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


When I hear "van life" it reminds me of my mother's sweet 1970's shaggin' wagon

It makes me think of the "Salt Life" stickers which are so numerous in the Atlanta suburbs. One of those weird sub culture things that sprung up and I couldn't figure out what it was. Like the "NOTW" stickers.

As soon as they accepted the first dollar, it stopped being what they want to do and started being what they had to do. I reject the entire premise. It's just another reality show.

Any time there's a camera in the room it's stops being reality and starts being theater.
posted by bongo_x at 8:23 AM on April 18 [4 favorites]


Small batch petroleum would be tough, since you gotta build up local infrastructure. A better angle, IMHO, would be "small-batch petroleum additives". Improve the vibe, $15 a bottle.
posted by aramaic at 8:27 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


The last time I read about this, it was that Duke grad student living in a parking lot on campus. Or was it that Googler living in a parking lot on the corporate campus? Those were pretty dreary reads, though. At least this couple figured out how to do late capitalism in style.
posted by indubitable at 8:27 AM on April 18


I've been seduced for a while by the idea of renting a campervan and traveling for a month or so. In the US, all the van rental companies I've seen seem very tailored to the international tourism market - I wonder why that is? Most people like me (American, early-mid 20s, urban, car-free) who I've talked to have never really heard of or considered the idea of renting a van like that, despite the fact that it seems like it'd fit our lifestyle fairly well.
posted by R a c h e l at 8:35 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I have about half a dozen friends traveling and living in vans. None of them are synergizing and aligning with sponsors. They're just climbing and occasionally posting photos for friends. They all saved money and quit their jobs. Seems a bit more "authentic" to me. But dirt bag climbing has a long storied history.

I think there needs to be a #minivanlife movement. Just photos of people stuck in traffic driving their kids to soccer. Actually, there probably already is.
posted by misterpatrick at 8:37 AM on April 18 [6 favorites]


I have vague fantasies about living out my retirement years alone in such a life--without sponsorship, natch, but I have no illusions that it will certainly be drudgery, and simply a way to deal with the fact that I will probably be poor and homeless. Young people do this and it's a lark.

I note that when I drove a cab as a mere babe, there were always middle aged men in suits who would get all misty-eyed about my job while on their way to their glass towers from their expensive homes on the north side, waxing all poetical like about how they wanted to chuck it all and drive a cab. They were assholes and tipped for shit. The reality is that they'd end up chucking their middle aged wives and look like idiots when they date 20 year olds and wonder why everyone's always rolling their eyes at them. Fantasists annoy me.
posted by RedEmma at 8:41 AM on April 18 [5 favorites]


It makes me think of the "Salt Life" stickers which are so numerous in the Atlanta suburbs.

I wonder if there are any Balls Brothers Band or Phenix[sic] Rising stickers left? Two 70's Atlanta bands, whose sticker game, if not their music, was strong. I used to walk past them all the time in the 80's and wonder what they were like.
posted by thelonius at 8:55 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


"Reality show" is never real. I assume theatre, and I assume manipulation, etc. etc.

To clarify- I don't reject the premise in all contexts- I reject the premise that the people in this article are anything other than the same kind of capitalist entrepreneurs the vanlife culture is supposed to be counterculturing against. It seems quite hypocritical.

It's not clear to me (and likely impossible to ever know, truly) if they started out pure and were turned that way by the temptation of those sweet sweet sponsorship dollars, or if those dollars were the goal all along, and gee, isn't it nice how that all worked out... and now we can market our origin story as well...
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:18 AM on April 18


I spent some time traveling in a Honda minivan, and went to an annual meetup of vandwellers. For some, it's a financial necessity, for others, a liberating choice. For me, a fantastic way to travel with my dog. The people in this article seem like hipsters. There are lots of people, many retired, who live in RVs of all sizes fulltime. Some perspectives
posted by theora55 at 9:57 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Back in the 1970s, a group of lesbians living the #vanlife called themselves the Van Dykes.
posted by larrybob at 9:59 AM on April 18 [9 favorites]


#vanlife, Not to be confused with:

#Vonlife — The 19th century German aristocratic social media movement.

#vinlife — The "I live my life a quarter mile at a time" social media movement.

#venlife — The ventriloquist social media movement.

#vennlife — The circular overlapping diagrams social media movement.
posted by FJT at 9:59 AM on April 18 [8 favorites]


So, I spent about a year traveling with the Ren Faire circuit. I'd learned enough skill at clown college,no really, and did a stint at Disney, and traveling around the country in a van with a bunch of stoned jugglers seemed like a fun thing to do. And, for the most part, it was a blast. But I was 20. You can put up with a lot of discomfort and inconvenience at 20. Now that I'm over 50, not so much.

But I tell ya gang, rolling thru Mississippi,in a van with a dragon on one side and a wench on the other, clouds of smoke rolling out like a cheech and chong movie, and then performing a fire routine for the cop that stops you...not an experience I will ever forget. Also, that's the year I was filmed juggling fire torches naked in a canoe during a rainbow gathering, which is one of the many reasons I can never run for public office. Well, that and my Burning Man performances. Still, I had a blast in my 20s, and I recommend everyone just take off at least once in their life, just to see what the world has to offer.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 10:27 AM on April 18 [16 favorites]


Something about this makes me so sad. Like we're reaching a place where people can't afford rent. So they live in their vans and we're trying to make that 'cool' so it's okay for others to do this, and the rich are paying them for pictures so they can remotely watch like these kids are zoo animals, their pay depending on how fun their pictures are. And we're all just okay with this. It's all so sad.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 11:37 AM on April 18 [17 favorites]


the rich are paying them for pictures

#dystopianscifipresentlife
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:40 AM on April 18 [5 favorites]


I think the article's note about the changing economic pressures is important, too: it's notable that the aspirational adventurous experience is shifting away from eyewateringly expensive tours of East Asia or South America, hopping around by plane every few weeks, towards buying and fixing a beaten-up vehicle and driving around whichever of the US or EU you're already living in.

OK, so as someone who backpacked around Asia in my twenties, I have to say this is inaccurate. It's a common-enough misconception, but it is very much a misconception. It was a HELL of a lot cheaper than any kind of travel around the US would have been. I spent a total of $5,000 to travel around 4 countries (Thailand, Laos, India, and Nepal) for 6 months. Adjusting for inflation, that would be around $6,800 today, including flights, travel insurance, gear, medical costs (I got a second degree burn in Laos and had to have a root canal in Bangkok) and all my travel costs (food, accommodations, etc). That wouldn't even pay for the cost of a van, much less gas, repairs, food, medical care, etc in the US.

I do think it's interesting that people looking to do the bohemian thing these days are more likely to look to #vanlife than backpacking around Asia (if that's actually the case). If it is the case, I think the reasons are probably more cultural than budget-related. One thing I wonder - maybe it feels less economically risky. If you run out of money in Laos, you pretty much just have to go home (assuming you have family or friends with a spare bedroom/couch to sleep on). If you run out of money in a camper van, well, you can just hopefully park in a town and get a job. You can probably also do it for longer for this reason.
posted by lunasol at 12:15 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


So #vanlife sounds kind of like a paved road version of "overlanding", i.e., car camping (pardon me, Vehicle Supported Adventure™) on dirt roads and public land which is becoming more of a thing. Overland Expo West will be in a couple of weeks in Flagstaff, AZ.
posted by Standeck at 12:37 PM on April 18


Like we're reaching a place where people can't afford rent. So they live in their vans and we're trying to make that 'cool' so it's okay for others to do this

I don't think it's that so much as privileged people doing as privileged people do - healthy young white people (myself included) have a history of living low-cost, care-free fringe lifestyles for a while in their 20s/30s. It's not trying to make people that are forced into those situations cool any more than camping glamorizes homelessness. It's just selling the concept that well off people can chose to step away from the office life for a while.
posted by Candleman at 12:46 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


It's not clear to me (and likely impossible to ever know, truly) if they started out pure and were turned that way by the temptation of those sweet sweet sponsorship dollars, or if those dollars were the goal all along, and gee, isn't it nice how that all worked out... and now we can market our origin story as well...

Maybe it wasn't a far leap? They're 32 and 31. Do most people of that age/class/background even have a sense of themselves that doesn't involve the deliberate & self-conscious curation of online stuff to generate constructions of themselves as particular kinds of public objects? (Real question, not a dig at snake people. I have no idea. Privacy is still very real and precious to me. I'm not even really ok with having a LinkedIn profile.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:17 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


(and it's not like people my age didn't grow up doing some kind of motivated self-presentation anyway, IRL. there just might not have been the same tools & the level of sophistication required of young people today, & those skills and tools just overlap really easily with capitalist vehicles right now.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:22 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking of doing this for a while. I sold my business last October and haven't worked since. I'm happier. Writing more (halfway through a novel and more projects on the go)... but I only got my driver's license two months ago and am wary of buying. So many damn options.

I also have an amazing apartment that I could easily sublet so not really risking much if I hate it. But still... damn scary. If I was in America, I'd probably have already started, but don't look forward to winter in Canada in a van with a dog.

Anyway, not sure why people hate this idea and am baffled by people who say they'd rather "get a real job". I had a great-paying job and I only worked 29 hours a week, but it wasn't challenging and I didn't care about it. Stopping working was the best decision I ever made.

People who do like vanlife ideas might enjoy Pam the Van, which gives the single female version. I also like This Wild Idea's instagram, though it's a Land Cruiser, not a van.
posted by dobbs at 3:00 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


I read the whole article and grew more and more annoyed. This is what I took away from it:

Photo shoots are photo shoots. They are not a significant movement or revolutionary. Managing financial expenses and your lifestyle is as psychological as it is numerical.

When people talk about taking a gap year or living in a van or similar lifestyles, they seem to be surprised that they may have to do things like find sponsors, get parents' money for support, stay in dangerous situations, or sell sexuality (what would happen to their lifestyle if these guys gained 40 pounds in a few months)?. Those things aren't fun or adventurous to most people.

The #vanlife people admitted they would have next to no following without BIKINIS. (I really hope the girlfriend is getting most of the money and would love to hear more from her).

Why the surprise every time? Making money and living at an American middle class level or better takes work. And it isn't always pleasant. I hope robots and basic income can help, but who knows.

The actual#vanlife? I know people who sold everything and tried to tour the US. Nothing fancier than visiting landmarks and parks.

Unfortunately, my friends' vehicle was robbed and destroyed within a few weeks of their journey.

Their savings= getting the vehicle functioning and then paying for emergency hotels after the robbery. I was so angry for them because they aren't rich and had to scramble for help, just because they wanted to check out the country.Now they are retying to get by....

Photo shoots are not going to help them financially or mentally. Basic income would.
posted by Freecola at 5:53 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Anyway, not sure why people hate this idea and am baffled by people who say they'd rather "get a real job".

My commentary was about the difference between quitting your job and traveling around in a van, and taking on a new job; photo shoots acting out living a nomad lifestyle to promote other people's companies. But mostly about how many people don't even notice a difference.
posted by bongo_x at 6:42 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Not a day goes by I don't regret selling my '84 Westphalia with perfect canvas, no leaks, and functioning stove, sink, and fridge a little less than 10 years ago. What the hell was I thinking?
posted by sourwookie at 6:47 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I should specify "no leaks" in the canvas. Perpetual leaks from the engine, tranny, and an unbelievably preposterous cooling system were why I did sell it.
posted by sourwookie at 6:58 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


As somebody who is in the process of converting a Sprinter van to live in full time for at least a little while (maybe six months? maybe a year? maybe longer, I don't know yet), that "Vanual" is full of questionable build techniques. Among other things, from what I know Reflectix is useless when placed directly against a metal wall like that, and I know for sure that you don't want to foam up everything until after you've done the electrics.

I'll second The otter lady's comment on "vanlife" vs. "vandwelling". Vandwelling and the associated info seems to be much more about survival on your own terms in a precarious age, and vanlife is...well, this.
posted by hackwolf at 10:10 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


that "Vanual" is full of questionable build techniques.

I only glanced because the first thing I read was about screwing plywood down to make a floor, which just seems unnecessary and weird. What about flex?
posted by bongo_x at 10:17 PM on April 18


The article did not at all prepare me for how depressing the Instagram would be. A typical photo: Emily posed in some impossible strained perch on the front bumper of the van, her cleavage displayed almost as prominently as a bag of Kettle Chips far bigger than her head, accompanied by the following text:

The groove of 9-5 was no life for me, a deadening paradox of overstimulation and stagnation.

After college, I thought to use my business degree wisely. I thought to achieve. I thought to succeed. I thought to build an honorable resume. Reef. Sotheby’s. The New York Times. But these thoughts were never really mine, just some learned condition. As if name recognition would validate each inhalation.

And so I worked hard to shift my position, flinging myself into the unknown, on the road with my partner and a vision.

Vanlife opens space to remember that I am a creator. Every moment my canvas, I am always free to be my hero and not fall victim to a forgetful way of living. My only regret is not leaping sooner.

What about you? Are you taking a major leap? Have you before? How did it turn out?

Post supported by @kettlebrand #kettlebrand

That New Yorker article is a cry for help.
posted by phoenixy at 12:22 AM on April 19 [19 favorites]


1. Part of their username is brand
2. She uses symbols from the I Ching as paragraph breaks.

I can't... it's just too perfect.
posted by fatbird at 12:44 AM on April 19 [5 favorites]


Part of their username is brand

Not their username, the username of the brand of chips they're promoting - it's Kettle chips, you can see it in the photo.
posted by Dr Dracator at 6:40 AM on April 19 [4 favorites]


Fortunately this article features a (presumed) heterosexual man and woman, and they're both quite pretty, so no one can make the joke they will never get laid unlike the Google employee with a box truck, but hey, at least I make more money than them. (At the teeny tiny cost of going into an office M-F, 9-5.)

When self-driving hybrid Dodge Sprinter vans come out in a decade or two and those get converted into make-shift RV's, then where will be?

"Living" in the Google parking lot and surfing in Mexico on the weekends?
posted by fragmede at 8:49 AM on April 19


Self-driving vehicle-homes constantly touring Megacity One was a frequent plot point in Judge Dredd. Just sayin'...
posted by fatbird at 11:31 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Also, I want to add that sleeping indoors (I count a van as indoors) blows. Every night in a tent is an awesome night. Plus, no people and scenery to myself. No van is going to make it several portages in to the BWCA in February when it's -30F but my canvas tent and wood burning stove make the trip just fine. And a canvas tent as we all know is way more Wes Anderson than a van.
posted by misterpatrick at 11:44 AM on April 19


My wife and I have a van. I built the countertop today. Fun project. We're taking a year off and are fortunate to be able to do so. We will eat, but not advertise, Kettle chips. I'm not sure what hashtag to use.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 7:57 PM on April 19 [4 favorites]


In its defence, the article does get into King describing how the lifestyle involves extra stress and anxiety, not less of it. It's not a tale of finding liberation on the road via expedient commoditization of vacation snapshots. It's more like they find a workable slog that they're enjoying for now.

I searched this thread for "Black Mirror" and got no hits. I'm disappointed.
posted by jjwiseman at 3:51 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]


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